It may be winter, but that’s no excuse to let exercising slip! West End Running Group wants you to join them and there’s every reason why you should.
I arrive to meet West End Running group managing director and head coach Oli Jones under the iconic Kurilpa Bridge at 5pm on a Tuesday. I spot a very fit looking young man jogging up to me, with ‘WERG’ printed on his singlet. It is indeed the acronym of West End Running Group, and is almost endearing in its unfortunate sound. First things first; if I wasn’t already a runner, I’d be keen to give it a shot about now.
Oli’s day job is as a physical education teacher at a north Brisbane high school, justifying his willingness to organise people and whip them into shape. He is full of energy and I’m starting to feel very unfit by comparison. Another man arrives — extending his hand, he greets me warmly. Mark is WERG’s other running coach and Oli’s father. The next person to arrive is Lloyd, one of Oli’s brothers. It is turning into a real family affair. Lloyd has done his ankle but stoically shows up to support the budding family enterprise for this pivotal interview. He is quick to point out that a rugby injury is preventing him from running, not a lack of fitness. It is all rather hilarious and the family wins me over.
From 5.40pm onwards, members of the running group start to appear out of the darkness. They are a mix of men and women, older and younger. There are about 15 regulars and Oli hopes to double numbers by year’s end. He notes that many group members are ‘lone runners’ — whose friends don’t run and are looking for like-minded (and footed) people to join. There are two training sessions a week and plans for more. Tuesday evenings involve a one kilometre long flat circuit, where faster runners lap slower ones, and Oli and Mark keep an eye on everyone, lending encouragement and tips along the way. Thursdays are more gruelling. They have found every hill in the area and run the group up and down each of them.
WERG benefits include improving your running style, your times and increased motivation by running alongside others. The group enter fun runs and social running events as a team. I ask if they encourage anyone to turn up, regardless of their fitness level. Mark says people should really be able to run five kilometres by themselves first. If you have never run this far before, he suggests running two kilometres, then four, then five to achieve basic running fitness. Everyone is encouraged to join once they make the five kilometre milestone.
Training sessions are just $5 each; nothing in comparison to gym membership. The community-minded Jones family donates a portion to charity, and are supporting MICAH locally.
Need more convincing to pull on running shoes? Mark, in his mid-50s, is director of a large architectural firm and father to six strapping young men. He also runs daily. Enough said.
Words by Alice Thompson | Images by Michael David